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Full text of "NightRider"

39

to find out if Mr. Munn had any idea about the burning and
if he had had any threats or anything like that, Mr. Munn
said no, there had been no threats, that the whole matter
might be an accident. The lieutenant said that that wasn't
likely, that it was night riders all right, because one of the
negroes had seen three or four men riding off across the
meadow, lickety-split.

Mr. Munn shrugged his shoulders, "I don't know any-
thing about it," he said.

After a while some of the negroes began to move off. The
children had grown sleepy and querulous after their excite-
ment. One child began to cry. Mr. Munn looked at the stuff
the negroes had managed to save, only a few pieces of furni-
ture from the downstairs, the sofa, a couple of chairs, a pic-
ture off the wall. When the first man had waked up, at the
sound of a dog barking, they said, the fire was already coming
out the upstairs windows.

A good part of the walls of the house were still standing.
The walls toward the corner where his bedroom had been
were almost intact. Looking up at them, he thought, aim-
lessly, of himself and of other people before him sleeping in
that room, protected by those walls, cut off by those walls
from the weather and the night outside, and the world. Those
walls had made a little world inside. That world was gone
now. It was gone, liberated and absorbed into the air outside,
dissipated in the flame and smoke. He was not sad at the
fact. Now that it was a fact, now that the thing was done, it
was like something done a long time before, something he
had grown used to. He had not realized before, before he
stood there to observe the grey ash flake off the smouldering
timbers and a last few wisplike flames flutter outward, and
then withdraw, how tenuous had grown the threads that
tied him to the life, and the lives, that had been in that
house.

The young lieutenant came over to stand beside him.
"Tough luck," the lieutenant remarked, "losing your house
like that." He looked meditatively at the ruins. "And a